Author Spotlight: James Russell Lingerfelt

Suzanne Author Spotlight

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Welcome to Author Spotlight! Each week will feature a different author. We’ll get the scoop behind their writing life and dish a little. The authors will also be giving away a copy of their latest book. FUN.

The winner from the last Author Spotlight giveaway is TERESA S. MATHEWS! Please email info {at} suzannewoodsfisher {dot} com with your mailing address to claim your prize.

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Welcome James Russell Lingerfelt, author of The Mason Jar, to Author Spotlight! Leave a comment below for the chance to win a copy of his book.

James Russell LingerfeltWhat is the smartest writing advice you ever received?

I was told to let people read your work, be open to criticisms, and to rewrite over and over. But I’d like to take that further. What I learned from experience is to let members of your target audience read your work and then edit, edit, edit after receiving their feedback. If more than one person has a problem with a certain aspect of the story, then something’s wrong. Fix it or delete the paragraph/subject all together.

What was your biggest break?

Even after I resigned from teaching, I would tell people I was a teacher rather than a writer. But when I started telling people I was a writer, doors opened. Suddenly, everyone knew somebody who was published or worked in the publishing or entertainment industry. I was having coffee and talking books with a man I’d never met in a Starbucks. I didn’t tell him I was a writer – big mistake. But I really knew my stuff on the genre of literature we were discussing. He found out I wanted to serve as an editor for pay until I could launch my writing career. He revealed he was the CEO at a major publishing house. He set me up to talk with his editors about hiring me, and after they discovered I was a writer and read excerpts of The Mason Jar, they made an offer for my writings instead of offering me a job. Because of that meeting, I won one of the best literary agents in the business. All because I was talking about writing to a stranger in a Starbucks. Whatever field you want to enter, go ahead and tell people that’s what you do. The world is connected and people typically love to help each other if they know they’ll not be exploited in the process.

I’m inspired by…

Being in nature, reading classic literature and contemporary love stories that are told well. I like the real stuff, stories that could actually happen. Fantasy doesn’t draw me. That’s just who I am.

My great adventure has been…

By the time I was 30 years old, I had backpacked through over twenty countries. Being with people living completely different than most Americans taught me a lot about what’s a big deal and what isn’t in life. What I learned most is that there is really no correct way to live your life. Because whatever you believe and what works for you and your culture can be the exact opposite of what entire nations are doing in the east. Here, we go to college. There, they can’t afford college so they perform a trade or a sales position and are taught by the experienced men and women in their immediate and extended families. Here, we work 9-5 and think that’s normal. Nope. That was set up through our American industrial revolution. People in the east work mostly half days so they can spend more time with their families. We get married here and move away to be “independent.” They get married and live next door to their relatives. But it’s hard coming home because I see people putting so much weight into what others think about their house, their job, their lifestyle. For me, I’m like, “I just want to be with my loved ones, find something that I love doing that’ll pay my bills and contribute to the livelihood of my family, and save for retirement.” I saved up my money as a teacher, I’m writing full time now, and after two years, I’m now drawing a salary. I’m happy.

The one thing I hope to discover is…

Simply more things that fascinate me and remind me how wondrous this world around us really is.

If I could go anywhere, it would be…

I want to spend a summer in Alaska with the locals, backpack across Italy and visit Switzerland and Austria. Then visit the Norwegian countries. I’ve been everywhere else I’ve wanted to visit.

If you have only…an hour…

I’d do exactly what I’m doing right now. I’m writing to you while visiting my parents. My brother lives in Texas, so I wouldn’t be able to see him if I only had an hour left. I’d probably call him and tell him I love him and that he’s an awesome brother. But he already knows I feel that way about him. These are the people I love the most and who love me the most. I made peace with myself a long time ago. If I found out I was about to die, I’d reply, “Okay. How am I going out?” That might sound morbid and sad to some, but not to me. I’ve loved life despite some of the hard times. And if I found out this was my final hour, I’d be okay with it. I’m at peace. I believe in an eternal place, so I’d be up for what that adventure has in store. A lot of the philosophers teach us to remind ourselves daily that we’ll die, that way it helps us keep life in its proper perspective. I’ve been reminding myself of my death on a daily basis since I was about 19. So I’ve got a good 14 years practice in. I apologized to a lot of people during that time and I started knocking out my bucket list the best I could (I still do) and try not to do and say things I know I’ll later regret. Reminding myself of my mortality daily has actually helped me live a fuller life. If I live until I’m 70, half of my life is almost over. Whoa! What will I do with this second half? I think those are questions we need to be asking ourselves if we want to fully live in the present and future.

Describe yourself in one word:

Lover (in a pure sense, haha).

If your house were on fire, what one thing would you save?

This laptop computer I’m writing to you on.

What has been your most surreal, “pinch-me-I’m-dreaming” moment so far?

The first time I was in love. I was lying on my bed in grad school and she was leaning over me, with her chin resting in her hand and her elbow propped on my chest. We were talking about everything people in love talk about: our dreams, past struggles and past victories, our future life together. Her hair hung around my face and I would tuck locks of it behind her ear. I caressed her cheek while she spoke. She loved it when I did that. I truly, deeply, loved her. It was the most real, wondrous, experience I’ve ever had. Topped anything I’ve ever been a part of. Being in love for the first time, it exceeded all the hype portrayed in fairy tale stories, songs, and films. And it was wonderful. At least, it was like that for me. I’ll never forget it.

What drives you to succeed?The Mason Jar cover

I believe I’m good at what I do. I’m an amateur writer and producer. And I love what I do. I believe that if I keep working hard, I could be great. I love connecting with people through my writings, receiving letters from people all over the world. I’ve made lifelong friendships because people read my articles or The Mason Jar and reach out to me. We still exchange letters here and there. When people find others that share their beliefs and values, they’ll “come out of the wood works” and connect with them.

Best Surprise:

That falling in love for the first time surpassed all I expected.

Best Saturday Afternoon Read:

Any book I’m interested in reading for leisure rather than a book I need to read for inspiration or for ideas regarding my writings.

Best Forgotten Custom:

I played basketball from the time I can remember until I graduated high school. And I was good for high school. I wasn’t good enough to play college. I did walk onto the lacrosse team, though. I was in the best shape of my life while playing college lacrosse. I miss competitive sports, a lot. Now I just exercise to stay healthy. All my energy and passion now is pointed at writing. Life moves on and interests change.

Best Way to Break a Sweat:

For me, it’s working in our vegetable garden, but since that’s only seasonal, I like to go to the gym and lift weights. I put on my earphones and hit the rock stations on Pandora. I work out in a sweatshirt and sweatpants to keep my muscles warm and it makes me sweat more. Sometimes, I’ll end it with a swim. Afterward, I eat a warm country meal of vegetables and a meat followed by fruits. Then I take a shower. The feeling afterward is awesome for me. It’s therapeutic.

Best Style Icon:

I love black and white. Love it. It’s classy, it never goes out of style. When I can’t wear black and white, I like some blue in my clothes. I have no idea why. I just always have. Every shirt in my closet is either full white, full black, or the All-American look in cotton or flannel, with blue in the designs. From 21 to 30 years of age, I just wore simple white t-shirts and jeans. I loved the look, the simplicity, and the feel of them. It drove my family nuts. “So, you’re wearing your best white t-shirt today?” they’d ask followed by snickers. But you know what? I didn’t spend more than $15 a year on clothes, unless I needed new jeans and shoes. Winter’s different. I like blazers and argyle vests in grays, browns, tans.

Best Time-Waster:

I don’t really waste time. I stopped watching television when I was 21. I’m 33 now. When I need to watch a show, I’ll find it on the Internet. I go for walks, not to waste time, but to unwind. The closest I come to wasting time is reading updates on my Facebook and Twitter feeds. But I don’t follow people who post senseless, useless stuff. I’ve unsubscribed from them. We’re still friends on the network, but the people I follow, they’re posting important stuff that makes me think and informs me of important events. “News” is always from a certain point of view and is usually just attention grabbers so papers can make money. So I choose my reporters like people choose their newspapers. I follow those people who will report on subjects in line with my interests. If anything is important enough outside that, I always find out about it because it’s blasted everywhere in the media and social networks.

Best Indulgence:

I love dark chocolate and I also love a good California merlot, cabernet, or pinot noir.

Best Advice:

Love as much as you can and pursue passions and goals. It’s what makes life enjoyable. If you’d like to read a book that unravels that concept more, read Victor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning.


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